Monday, April 26, 2010

Italians Doing What They Do Best

The Italians have done it again. They're really out to get me. (Fat) They already had my butt with their Pizza and thighs with their Pasta, but now they've stolen my abs, biceps, and soul with Panzanella. OK, so Panzanella isn't really unhealthy but still... they sure know how to give you cankles.

Of all the recipes that I have posted thus far, this is the one EVERYONE should try. We made it last week in a Tuscan cooking class at Sur La Table and it stole the show. If you are a vegetarian, carnivore, health nut, fatty fanatic, dieter, Tinseltown starlet, grunge rocker, strapping farm boy, surfer girl, melancholy meter maid, scotch aficionado, hardcore chef, armature cook, or don't know what a spatula is, you will fall in lust with this salad. This Panzanella will honestly blow you away. And what better accompaniment to any meal or BBQ prepared in the upcoming spring and summer months? This salad, is light and refreshing. You will love it, and everyone else who tries it, will love you. This is the way to get on the good side of your man-eating aunt, psychotic ex, or malignant mother in law. Guaranteed.

Yes I know the list of ingredients looks overwhelming, but remember people, this is a salad. You don't have to do much with anything other than cut. We made a few improvements to the original recipe by grilling the bread and fennel, using roasted garlic instead of raw, and peeling the bell peppers by blistering the skin over a flame. If your not into grilling or think it looks too time consuming, don't grill. I just recommend it.

*Fresh and delicious tomatoes are essential in this dish.

WARNING- May cause overwhelming desire to speak in Italian mob accents. "You talking to me?"

Grilled Tuscan Panzanella

  • 4 cups torn pieces of sourdough or rustic bread, 1 to 2 inches wide
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs drained capers
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced red onions
  • 5 assorted ripe heirloom tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size and shape
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted, julienned
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, julienned
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered (optional)
  • ½ cup pitted and halved Nicoise olives
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ¼cup shaved Parmigaino-Reggiano cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Roast garlic- Cut the top off the head of garlic off, drizzle with oil wrap in foil and bake for 40 minutes until soft
  3. Roast fennel- Drizzle fennel with olive oil, wrap in foil and bake till soft. About 20 minutes
  4. In a bowl, toss the bread with the 3tbs of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. If possible, grill the bread for a few minutes until lightly toasted. Then spread bread on a baking sheet and bake for 3 minutes until slightly crisp. If you do not have a grill then bake the bread for 7 minutes. (The pieces should not be as crispy as croutons.)
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, capers, zest and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, add the extra virgin olive oil in a stream until well incorporated
  6. Roast bell peppers- Place whole bell pepper directly over an open flame and turn ever few minutes until the skin is blistered and blackened. Then place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Wait a few minutes then uncover and peel off the skin which should come off easily. Then slice into thin pieces.
  7. Place the onion, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, fennel, and olives in a serving bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Adjust the salt and pepper.
  8. Garnish with shaved cheese and serve. If you prefer a moister salad, drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil.
  9. Enjoy, or as the Italians say GUSTARE~

(Recipe courtesy of Sur La Table)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Revives Yummy Memories

(Picture courtesy of Daily Feed)

Happy Earth Day! Today I want to honor Earth Day by posting a recipe that is not only made with organic, seasonal, and local ingredients, but one that is very dear to my stomach. This recipe was shown to me 4 years ago by Chef Annie Somerville, in the back kitchen of Greens.

I had just finished culinary school at Tante Marie's and was beginning my externship at this well known and respected vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco. I was officially on the line and in charge of cold plates. This became the sandwich I lived for. Every lunch shift I worked, I prayed there would be enough leftovers for my fat face to devour. Eventually when I worked my way up to the hot plates, I made sure to prep 5 of these babies just before the lunch shift ended so leftovers would be inevitable. What else would you expect from me? The combination of roasted vegetables paired with the freshness of tomato, arugula and basil is perfection. My time at Greens may have been short, but it was much loved and well remembered, just like this sandwich.

*Tips- I often add avocado or shredded cheddar cheese to make it extra creamy and delish. This sandwich is definitely best served warm so make sure the grilled vegetables are hot and the cheese is melted when you prepare it.

Portobello Sandwich with Tomatoes, Roasted Onions and Basil Aioli

Makes 4 Sandwiches

What you need:
  • Basil Aioli (recipe follows)
  • Good Balsamic Vinegar or Reduced Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Lb portobello mushrooms, stems removed and gills lightly brushed if dirty
  • 1 large red onion, cut into ½-inch thick rings
  • Garlic oil (mince a few cloves of garlic and cover them with olive oil)
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 round sandwich rolls or which ever bread you prefer
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • A handful of arugula
What to do:
  1. Make the Basil Aioli and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  3. Brush the mushrooms and onions with garlic oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place them on a baking sheet.
  4. Roast for 10 min, turn over, and roast another 10 min or until completely tender.
  5. Slice the mushrooms, toss with a little balsamic vinegar and season to taste.
  6. Toss onions with salt and pepper and set aside
  7. Slice and toast the rolls. Then spread both sides of the rolls with the aioli.
  8. Place the mushrooms on the bottom of each roll, layer the tomatoes on top, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Then add the onions and top with arugula. Cover with the top of roll.
  9. Chow down and enjoy~
Basil Aioli

What you need:
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup basil leaves, packed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ tbs fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

What to do:
  1. Place the oil and basil in a blender and puree. Put aside.
  2. Add the yolk and a few drops of lemon juice to the blender. Begin to blend while slowly pouring the basil oil into the blender in a steady stream. When the mixture becomes thick add the rest of the lemon juice, garlic and salt.

Enjoy this sandwich and watch the academy award nominated film Food, Inc. for a guilt free and fun Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Coachella spurs Health Nut

Returning from a 3 day binge of pizza, chicken wings, fries, bratwurst, burgers, tacos, and beer really brings a whole new truth to the saying, "You are what you eat". Yes, Coachella was amazing. Yes, I ate like a pig. Yes, I am paying for it now. And no, I don't think I'm alone.

As I have slowly begun to get my life and body back together, I felt it would be a good time to introduce the healthy side of Spoondles. Which means a new series called Health Nut. This particular series will be written by my sister who is currently attending Bauman College, a Holistic School in San Francisco and who graduated from Cal Poly with a BA in Nutrition. The series will feature delicious healthy recipes, the low down on the worlds healthiest foods and a variety of tips and tricks on how to improve and maintain a sustainable and health conscious diet.

Spring Quinoa Salad with Pink Tahini Dressing

This Colorful spring salad is jam-packed with minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients. This is a nutrient dense dish meaning high proportion of nutrients to calories.

*Health Facts:

· Garlic, herbs, and kombu- booster foods. Provide the body with minerals and amino acids

. Quinoa- contains all nine essential amino acids and is a good complex carbohydrate. It doesn’t spike blood sugar like white rice. Contains fiber, vitamins and minerals.

· Beans and quinoa- great source of protein

· Olive oil, tahini, walnuts- Great source of essential Fatty Acids


Ingredients for Salad:

  • 2 cups white navy beans, soaked overnight
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 inch piece kombu
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 ¾ cups water or vegetable stock
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups fresh peas (about 1 ¼ lbs in pods), use frozen and thawed peas if fresh aren’t available
  • 2 bunches asparagus, about 2 lbs, trimmed and cut inot 1 inch segments
  • 2 medium carrots, small dice
  • 1 large bunch chives, chiffonade
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, chiffonade
  • ¾ cup walnuts, chopped

Ingredients for DRESSING

  • 3 medium garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 1 small red beet, roasted, about ¼ lb
  • 3 medium lemons, zested and juiced
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil



1. Roast the beet ahead of time in a 400 degrees oven for about 1 hour. Peel and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350

3. Add the navy beans to a pot with the 4 cups of water, garlic cloves, bay leaf, and kombu. Bring to a boil and then cover. Turn down the heat so that it is simmering cook for about 45 minutes, until tender but not mushy. When cooked, strain the beans and remove the garlic, bay leaf, and kombu. Set aside in a bowl and toss with salt and 2Tbs of the olive oil.

4. At the same time add the quinoa, 3 ¾ cups water of stock, and salt to a pot. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Quickly add the peas to the pot and then return the lid. Cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the quinoa covered for 5 minutes to steam. Transfer to a sheet pan and fluff with a fork. Allow to cool.

5. While the navy beans and quinoa are cooking, add the cut asparagus to a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until tender, about 25 minutes. When the asparagus is done, remove from the oven and toss with the remaining 1 Tbs of olive oil. Set aside to cool.

6. DRESSING: Add all of the ingredients, except for the oil to a blender. Blend until smooth. With the motor running on low, drizzle in the oil to emulsify. Taste and adjust if necessary.

7. In a large bowl combine the quinoa and peas, roasted asparagus, carrots, chives, mint, and walnuts. Toss to combine. Add the dressing and toss until the salad is coated. Before serving, gently fold in the navy beans, being craeful not to over mix so that they retain their color. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper

8. Garnish with lemon zest

By Sita Lindner

Recipe courtesy of Bauman College

For those of you looking at this recipe and thinking, "ummm, a 15 ingredient recipe is not gonna happen... " I feel you. Just because your lazy doesn't mean you have to be unhealthy. Today I made my go-to immunity booster fave that is super quick, nutritious and delicious. I often make it as a side dish or add it to my pasta sauce for a healthy addition. The main ingredient is Kale, one of the best foods for your body. If you don't know what that is then click here because it's about time you do.

Caring Kale Recipe

  • ½ head of kale
  • ½ of a lemon juiced
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • Spike seasoning (optional)


1. Wash kale, remove stems, and break up kale into smaller pieces

2. Add ¼ of water to a sauté pan over medium, low heat. Add kale and drizzle with olive oil then cover.

3. Sauté kale until leaves begin to wilt and soften (5-10 min). Add more water or oil if pan dries up

4. Add lemon juice and salt to taste

5. Sauté for a few more minutes until kale is tender and the seasoning tastes correct.

Serve and enjoy as the kale replenishes your body with goodness.

P.S. To all the Coachella-ers who brushed their teeth with beer, missioned it to Mickey D's for 3am fries and haven't had a vegetable in days, this is for you. I love you all!

P.P.S. Muse, LCD Soundsystem, XX, Hot Chip, Gorillaz, Jay Z. MGMT and Pheonix, you made my weekend!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sushi Gem Inspires Uni Dance

11301 West Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 478-7769
Spoondle's Rating: 10

As children, we are taught to share. But as adults, although we know sharing is morally correct, there remain instances which unleash your inner selfishness. This was what I experienced when I first thought about writing a review of Kiriko. The sushi restaurant in West LA run by chef Ken Namba, is truly a gem. Everything about it is amazing. It is small, uncrowded, unpretentious and carries the freshest fish I have tasted.

Kiriko may not be a secret anymore, after Jonathan Gold's List, but it sure doesn't attract the large crowds of trendy and expensive spots like Katsuya or Nobu. Their focus is on making traditional, simple ingredients taste extraordinary. This is the place you come for Spanish mackerel sashimi and a great yellowtail scallion roll. They take pride in their attention to detail by topping their sushi with grated ginger, crispy garlic chips or sweet ponzu. They also make a few things in house such as ice cream, sorbet, and smoked salmon. If you are looking for over the top rolls and appetizers, this is not your place. Instead try Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya where they have yummy and fun items like spicy tuna on crispy rice, creamy rock shrimp, or the best baked crab handroll in the city. All at damn good prices. But if you want simple, delicious, mind blowing freshness, no one does it better than Kiriko.

The quality and the cuts of the fish are always the best. Last week my salmon was marbled! I had never seen anything like it. When I put it in my mouth, it literally, honest to God, melted. Like butter! And the Uni. Oooooh my most favorite and anticipated moment in the meal. The uni, (sea urchin eggs) is out of this world. It is so fresh you can taste the seawater. Some of you may be thinking this sounds unappealing. Trust me, it's not.

I didn't always like uni. It took me a few tries. My first reaction 4 years ago was"gross". The second time I thought, "eh", but by the third time I was hooked. The cravings started. It would be 2:34 pm on a Wednesday and the uni aftertaste would pop into my head. There is something about uni's aftertaste that is unusually delectable. I wanted it. Needed it. It became an obsession. Today I am ashamed to say I crave it almost daily. If it wasn't so damn expensive I think I would order a platter for myself each meal. There is nothing so tender, so delicate, creamy, and unusually sweet as fresh uni.

Last week when I finally ate it ( I save it till the end so I can savor the aftertaste) I did a happy uni dance. Don't know what that is? I didn't either. But when those tiny iridescent eggs hit my tongue, my body was compelled by my taste buds to move. The sushi chef probably thought I was a nut as I sat opposite him, closed my eyes, hopped and wiggled my shoulders in my seat while repeating "mmmm", "mmmm" "mmmm". Yeah, it's that good.

*Tip- As with all sushi restaurants, the best time to go is on a tuesday, wednesday or thursday as they will have the freshest fish and smaller crowds. This means they will have more time to spend on the careful preparation of your food. I always suggest to sit at the sushi bar.

seared golden eye snapper topped with a ponzu sauce and wasabi

Seared bluefin tuna garnished with a ponzu sauce, crispy garlic chips and topped with truffle butter

An array of live sweet shrimp, uni, salmon, and kanpachi

Ikura sushi- salmon eggs topped with a quail egg. (I have not yet worked up the courage to try this but it is my boyfriends absolute favorite)

Appetizers of soft shell crab with a ponzu garlic dipping sauce, fried shrimp heads (the remains of the live sweet shrimp deep fried) and yellowtail sashimi

Buttery salmon sushi with creamy, mouthwatering UNI. Look at the way it drips over the edge. Ooooooh sooooo tasty. I'm drooling

The perfect light and refreshing end to a wonderful dinner- homemade blood orange sorbet

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Not Just a Corn Chip

I am always trying new and delicious things, so naturally I thought I should make a series devoted to sharing my extra yummy finds with you. These are the products that are so tasty, I feel like I would be committing a crime if I didn't let out their secret! MUAHAHAHAHAHA. I believe that no one should be left in the dark when it comes to food so good it makes me do the "Yummy Jig" (a dance in which you sway and wiggle your shoulders while releasing expressions of happiness like "m-m-m", "yummmm" and "gooooddddnessss". I hope these products will prove to unleash your inner Yummy Jig.

When I first tasted Have'a Corn Chips, I was in High School and had them in my packed lunch box everyday. Yes I had packed lunches in High School, I went to a hippie school remember? Read Childhood Cravings for more info.

I would like to say they are healthy. I mean the ingredients are Corn, Soybean oil, Soy Sauce, and a dash of lime. That's it. The simplicity is really what makes it so special. However, eating a whole bag of anything is probably not healthy and this is what happens when Have'a chips are in the house. The light flavor of the soy sauce with the lime is heavenly and addicting. They are great with salsa, bean dip, cheese, whatever, but I love them best in their pure form- straight out of the bag and into my mouth.

WARNING: May cause childish behavior like arguments over who gets to suck the last crumbs from the bag.

Price: $ 1.69 a bag
Where to purchase: Health food stores, Wholefoods, and online at Natural Grocers

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Coconut Easter Cupcakes

Spoondles apologizes that it has been slacking this week. I wanted to have these Easter Cupcakes done by today but it looks like I will be making them tomorrow. This is one of my favorite recipes by Ina Garten. I've made them before and I absolutely love them, which is no surprise since my 3 favorite "c" things in the world are cream cheese frosting, coconut and cupcakes. To add an Easter flair I am going to dye the coconut shreds different colors to decorate on top. This is an easy and quick way add easter flair to your brunch or dinner. Here is the recipe in case anyone is looking to make an Easter sweet treat today.

  • 3/4 lb unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 14 oz sweetened, shredded coconut
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. You can also do this with a hand held mixer
  3. With the mixer running on low, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In three parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry.
  5. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 oz of coconut
  6. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each cup to the top with batter
  7. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow time to cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely. Frost with cream cheese icing and sprinkle with the remaining coconut (click here to see directions for dying coconut shreds)
Cream Cheese Icing
  • 1 lb cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3/4 lb unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 ½ lbs confectioners' sugar, sifted
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand held mixer, blend together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Glutton Gossip - April

Photo Courtesy of Peperolove

Throughout my years of gluttony and piglet-like living, I have discovered some sweet foodie finds and deals. Of course there are many and these are only a few, but I wanted to share them with my fellow Spooners. Some of these are only good for the month of April so take note. If anyone else has other great finds and would like to divulge, please do! We love foodie gossip...

If you live in LA, Washington, New York, Orange County, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle or Vancouver and you LOVE Street Food, then I have the site for you. Roaming Hunger gives live updates on location, status, and news of all your favorite food trucks. Follow your truck's play by play with hourly updates that lets you know what's cooking where. You can even check the menu to see if it's vegetarian friendly. Consider it a sports site for the foodie.

Throughout the month of April, Sur La Table is sharpening your knives for free. Bring two knives to any Sur La Table store and have them professionally sharpened without having to pay a cent. To me, "free" always sounds like a good deal.

Cooking classes are fun and educational but usually pretty expensive. I found a great deal for a $35 per person cooking class with Chef Amanda Cushman. She has been teaching and cooking professionally for over 25 years and is now offering her classes for a discounted rate. Considering her classes usually go for $70 a class it's a pretty great deal. The classes are located in either Venice or Culver City, are all hands-on and include dinner and wine. Click here to find out more about signing up.

For those of you that reside in LA or New York and enjoy getting large discounts on potentially good food, sign up for Blackboardeats. They'll send you deals like a free bottle of wine from Sona to 30% off your dinner at Sashi. Honestly I haven't cashed in on any of their offers yet but as soon as I find that ultimate deal I'll be one happy pig with a plump wallet... and gut.

Cecconi's in West Hollywood is offering Sunday Family Suppers every Sunday from 5-11 pm. For $50, you and three of your favorite people can feast on pizza and pasta served family style. I tried their gourmet pizza's last week and was pleasantly surprised by the light crunchy crust, sweet tomato sauce, and absence of grease. It's definitely a nice ending to your Sunday Funday.

For all you Zagat lovers. Did you know that you can send Zagat your ratings and witty reviews on restaurants you've visited in the past year to receive a free Zagat guide? Now you do. Just visit to register and review at least one restaurant to qualify for the deal. It literally takes 5 minutes and you can review as many cities as you like. Collect them all! Beware: This can get addicting.


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